Another blog from our fourth Steinbeck Project workshop. This is the second dispatch from Associate Artistic Director Jessica Richards, written on the last full day of rehearsal before today’s performance.
I’ve never been involved with a production that worked with musicians quite like we are here in this workshop. Arwen Lawrence and Jorge Liceaga (the two members of Cascada de Flores who are with us this week) are amazing. Octavio (Solis, Pastures of Heaven‘s playwright) has worked with them before on a show with Shadowlight Productions, and the three of them have a wonderfully collaborative give-and-take of putting his stories to music.
When writing the Lopez Sisters story, Octavio intended for it to become a corrido. You may have seen him in video at our December workshop, singing an early draft. He revised it in May, and we sent the lyrics off to Arwen for she and Jorge to compose the music. From there, Cascada played around with the instrumentation, landing on two guitars (nylon- and steel-stringed) and accordion, and working with books of traditional corrido melodies for musical inspiration. For many lines, they found that the melody required a few more syllables than Octavio had written, or that a word in Spanish would complete the rhyme even better. They had free reign to revise the lyrics as needed, and today, Octavio has spent most of the afternoon with Arwen and Jorge fine-tuning the language of the corrido in advance of our public reading tomorrow afternoon.
At the same time, Arwen and JoAnne Winter have been working together on the vocal parts of the Lopez Sisters: Maria and Rosa. We’ve only heard bits and pieces so far, but everything sounds great. There’s something to the comedy of Steinbeck (and Solis) that’s very dry and straightforward—it’s in the language of the moment; no more, no less. And hearing these two women (both of whom have really fab voices) tell the story of Maria and Rosa is hilarious and captivating and sweet, all at once.
The open-process staged reading takes place Friday at 3:30pm at Ashby Stage. I’m really looking forward to seeing how people respond to the work, though I’ll be a little sad that another workshop is over. We shouldn’t be allowed to have this much fun!